Latvia tourist information
Latvia s a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia (border length 343 km), to the south by Lithuania (588 km), to the east by the Russian Federation (276 km), and to the southeast by Belarus (141 km). Across the Baltic Sea to the west lies Sweden. The territory of Latvia covers 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi) and it has a temperate seasonal climate.
The Latvians are Baltic people culturally related to the Estonians and Lithuanians, with the Latvian language having many similarities with Lithuanian, but not with the Estonian language (a Finnic language). Today the Latvian and Lithuanian languages are the only surviving members of the Baltic languages of the Indo-European family. The modern name of Latvia is thought to originate from the ancient Latvian name Latvji, which, like the name of Lithuania, may have originated from the river named Latuva. The country is also the home of a large number of ethnic Russians of whom many are non-citizens.
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Latvia is a unitary parliamentary republic and is divided into 118 municipalities (109 counties and 9 cities). The capital and largest city is Riga. With a population of 2.22 million, Latvia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union, and its population has declined 15.1% since 1991. Latvia has been a member of the United Nations since September 17, 1991; of the European Union since May 1, 2004; and of the NATO since March 29, 2004.
Following a period of being part of the Soviet Union after World War II, Latvia declared its independence in 1991. After years of economic stagnation in the early 1990s, Latvia posted Europe-leading GDP growth figures during the 1998â2006 period. In the global financial crisis of 2008â2010 Latvia was the hardest hit of the European Union member states, with a GDP decline of 26.54% in that period. Its per capita GDP is 49% of the EU average in 2009, making it the third poorest member-state.
The Latvian climate is humid, continental and temperate owing to the maritime influence of the Baltic Sea. Summers are warm, and the weather in spring and autumn is fairly mild; however, the winters can be extreme due to the northern location. Precipitation is common throughout the year with the heaviest rainfall in July. During severe spells of winter weather, Latvia is dominated by cold winds from the interior of Russia, and severe snowfalls are very common.
The transport sector is around 14% of GDP. Transit between Russia and the West is large. Key ports are in Riga, Ventspils, and LiepÄja. Most transit traffic uses these and half the cargo is crude oil and oil products. Riga International Airport is the largest airport with 4.7 million passengers in 2010. AirBaltic is the Latvian flag carrier airline and a low-cost carrier. Latvia has 3 big hydroelectric power stations.(PÄ¼aviÅu HES(825MW), RÄ«gas HES(402 MW), Ä¶eguma HES-2(192 MW)
Traditional Latvian folklore, especially the dance of the folk songs date back well over a thousand years. More than 1.2 million texts and 30,000 melodies of folk songs have been identified.
Between the thirteenth and nineteenth century, Baltic Germans, many of whom were originally of non-German ancestry but had been assimilated into German culture, formed the upper class. They developed distinct cultural heritage, characterised by both Latvian and German influences. It has survived in German Baltic families to this day, in spite of their dispersal to Germany, the USA, Canada and other countries in the early 20th century. However, most indigenous Latvians did not participate in this particular cultural life. Thus, the mostly peasant local pagan heritage was preserved, partly merging with Christian traditions, for example in one of the most popular celebrations today which is JÄÅi, a pagan celebration of the summer solstice, celebrated on the feast day of St. John the Baptist.
In the nineteenth century Latvian nationalist movements emerged promoting Latvian culture and encouraging Latvians to take part in cultural activities. The nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century is often regarded as a classical era of Latvian culture. Posters show the influence of other European cultures, for example, works of artists such as the Baltic-German artist Bernhard Borchert and the French Raoul Dufy. With the onset of World War II, many Latvian artists and other members of the cultural elite fled the country yet continued to produce their work, largely for a Latvian Ã©migrÃ© audience.
After incorporation into the Soviet Union, Latvian artists and writers were forced to follow the Socialist realism style of art. During the Soviet era, music became increasingly popular, with the most popular being songs from the 1980s. At this time, songs often made fun of the characteristics of Soviet life and were concerned about preserving Latvian identity. This aroused popular protests against the USSR and also gave rise to an increasing popularity of poetry. Since independence, theatre, scenography, choir music and classical music have become the most notable branches of Latvian culture.